Saturday, 7 March 2009

Game Complexity and Emotion

We ask ourselves, "What makes a game good?", and then we leave you with the question, "What is the minimum we can do to evoke this in the player?"

What makes a game good?
  1. A sense of achievement. This can be recognised 'stages' of gameplay, measured score, moral reward, or an unlocking of more content in the game environment.

  2. "Bargain!" - the feeling that the game is value for money, and has potential to lasts a long time, such that the player does not think about when the experience will end.

  3. Inspiring a sense of awe from the presentation (graphics are a little more than one can fully take in), and conceptual immersion (the environment itself is awe-inspiring, either technologically or immersively).

  4. Engagement: the feeling that the player can make a big difference to a complex siutation.

  5. The appropriate learning curve: is it adaptable to the players, so that they are challenged but not alienated and without hope.

  6. Any action or threat is well-paced, so that it is never constant, but varied in a way that has maximum impact and engagement.

  7. A suitable environment for (multiplayer) social interaction, to add fluid intelligence to the feedback that computer-controlled players cannot (yet) provide, and to extend existing friendships into the activity to enrich their common experiences.

  8. An interface that is not a barrier for the user, but is instead intuitive and helpful, like an extension of one's own nervous system or limbs.

  9. Fashionable ownership of a recognised asset. This one deserves some explanation: it is the 'me too' aspect of game ownership, when people in the key demographic generally acknowledge that a game would be good to own, for whom talking about it earns social kudos. Although we might at first think that only a marketing exercise can make a game 'cool', we think it's possible to design a game this way, so that it has slowly-uncovered features (so that there's something emergent to talk about), and a social aspect (multiplayer).

  1. Are there many games that tick all these boxes?
  2. Are there any games that tick most boxes, but frustratingly fail in others?
  3. Are there any more boxes?
  4. Finally, What is the minimum we can do to evoke this in the player?
That last question is really the point of this post. For example, can a very simple game, developed in short time, and with few assets, engage multiple players in an awe-inspiring environment that offers many possibilities, and allows them to use their intelligence to achieve a goal? Do we really need to spend vast resources on developing games, and can an indie developer compete with the big boys?

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